ITALIAN DRIVERS

They’ve been very respectful of my presence by the side of the road. I check every oncoming car to see what line it’s taking. When I’m assured it’s not going to come too close to me I can look away. If it maintains it’s line towards me it usually indicates that there is a car coming in the opposite direction and it has no where to move, in which case I stop, step off the road and wait until they pass.

INTERNATIONAL CODES OF DRIVER CONDUCT

There’s an international code for showing approval or disapproval of people who walk, but don’t drive on roads. Two short bips of the horn is a friendly gesture and indicates approval. Two short bips accompanied by a wave is very friendly. Whereas a long single blast of the horn is unfriendly, and if accompanied by something yelled loudly in your direction, that’s very unfriendly, bordering on hostility.

POPULAR MOTOR VEHICLES IN ITALY

By far the most popular car I’ve seen on Italy’s roads is the Audi. And for you truck drivers it’s the Iveco. I know this because I look at the front of everyone of them.

NON-DRIVING ITALIANS

My experience with ‘on the street’ Italians has been a very different experience to that which I’ve had in Spain where pilgrimage is part of the lives of Spaniards, particularly those in the north of the country where the most popular walking paths
are located. In Spain pilgrims bring much needed Euros into local impoverished communities that are largely agriculturally based. So there is in Spain a respect for pilgrims, even if sometimes given grudgingly. Nothing like this exists in Italy, at least not on the path I’ve taken where I’m simply a person walking along the road with a backpack. I’ve had looks of distrust, disinterest and suspicion. I think I’m seen as something of a curiosity. I see myself as an anomaly. So far I’ve not seen another person walking the road with backpack.

ITALIANS AND THEIR SECURITY

I’ve passed hundreds of properties set back from the road, sometimes just 50 or 100 metres. One thing they all have in common are the grand gateways that are the barrier between them and the rest of the world. Some are double gates which can span up to 5 metros in width. They can be three to four metres high, quite ornate, usually of metal construction, and always locked, sometimes electronically.

DOGS

Anyone who knows me well knows I haven’t had a happy history with dogs. Shirley
MacLaine, in a most esoteric account of her pilgrimage in Spain in the early 1980′s, threw a ‘love ball’ to any dog presenting with ill-intent in an effort to neutralise it. I adopted the MacLaine love ball practice on my first walk in Spain in 2007 and have continued it since, I have to say, with very limited success.

One thing I have noticed about Italian dogs is that they are mostly behind fences and those giant gates so when I pass by all they get to do is exercise their tonsils. There
is a particular strategy some adopt: as I walk beside their domain they run along the fence line to get level with me. When they realise I’ve moved on they move along a bit further to catch up. This continues until they come to the end of their property after which I get a few more barks to send me on my way. Of course all the commotion alerts neighbouring dogs and process starts all over again. They can be quite dogged with this behaviour. (I couldn’t help myself.) It’s a very rare country property I’ve passed which doesn’t have a dog, or two, or three.

WALKING POLES

What a blessing. They keep me upright which is handy for a walker. They provide a constant clicking sound as they strike the bitumen surface. Sometimes when I’ve moved a little to my left to make way for an oncoming car it’s only the right pole that is striking the road and it does so as my left foot touches the ground. This has taken me back to the parade ground at Singleton Army Barracks in 1968, when, as a National Serviceman, just conscripted into the army, I’m doing marching practice. I can hear the single beat from the snare drum as my left boot comes into contact with the parade ground while I desperately try to keep in step.

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